Interview with Alireza Vaziri Rahimi about his winning work, Viruses! and how expressing his opinion freely after years of living under dictatorship contributed to his work as a talented graphic designer.
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does this award mean to you personally?
First of all, I am extremely honored to be receiving this award. I believe that focusing on a matter that is everybody’s concern these days in my project (pandemic), is what has drawn attention to it. Having worked as an art director for years, I now believe that we must observe the world surrounding us rather than only focusing on commercial aspects of our field. We must inspect what is going around us closely and reflect them in our design. I’ve recently been trying to think as such and dedicate most of my time to see, read and design.
What impact has winning this had for you?
Apart from being recognized in the design community, the most positive aspect of these kind of awards is the feeling of hope for the future that they give me; a wider audience gets to see the designs that you spend hours on and you can successfully get your message across as a designer; honestly, I can’t ask for more. The enormous joy of feeling being able to communicate with world in an empathic manner.
What was the most important for you when planning the project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
For years I have grown up with censorship and felt the dictatorship of my country’s government shadowing over lives of those around me and myself. After emigrating from Iran to United States in order to study design at the University of California, my greatest concern has been to freely express my opinion as a designer. I admit that now I feel so liberated to view all the topics/issues from my point of view and perspective and can shape my thoughts in any way I want without any restriction imposed.
We now live in a world which deals with visuals more than any other time in human history. Today we can make millions of people aware of a matter by presenting them with one image; this image, whether a poster or a photo or an illustration, might even live in the minds of the audience for years. So I, as a graphic designer, should use the design potentials to make the world a better place.
Where do you get motivation and inspiration from?
Researching and reading the works of Master of Designs.
How/when did you discover your passion for art and design?
As a kid, I was always astonished by the magical world of the classical animations. Like most artists and designers, I started with my little watercolor set and coloring pencils. Soon I found my passion in graphic design and decided to pursue it as a career.
How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision?
As an Iranian designer, I’m always under the influence of the culture I come from. I am very fond of Persian classical poetry and literature and have always admired Khayyam’s worldview. In my opinion, literature and the visual culture that form the designer’s mindset throughout the years are two practical tools for him. I have a great passion to blend occidental and oriental art to make my art works more universally comprehensible.
How do you think design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I think the design itself hasn’t changed that much. Principals of design have remained the same for years; what has undergone change are the tools by which new solutions can be given to solve new problems. Of course with the advancement of technology, new fields are introduced into design that require new knowledge and specialty; but in the end, the foundation is the same—finding and solving the problem, effective communication with the audience, and lastly providing them with a better experience. I would also like to add that the way I see it, with the increasing advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning, our career will undergo great changes in the future. However, creativity will always be the lead in design.
What would be your dream project?
The world of design is full of new opportunities. We need to try and keep ourselves warmed up and ready for new projects just like athletics. The ready mind of a designer is his greatest weapon. I’ve always tried to learn from the great designers. From the time I was a college student to the present, I have kept myself in an academic environment; I have spent a lot of time in libraries reading and observing the works of masters—from classic or impressionist painters to contemporary designers like Paul Rand, Stefan Sagmeister, and Michael Bierut. I hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to work alongside with this people and learn more from them.
What is your design process and what software do you use?
The exploration is the starting point of my design process. First, I do some research about the project and start working based on the creative brief I wrote after spending a relatively time on it. I always like hand sketches as the first step and surely, I know very well how to work with some Adobe software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and XD. Whenever I feel like my abilities are not enough, I ask for other designers’ help and sometimes I take a step back to get some feedback and know what they think of the process.
What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a project?
“Why should I do this?! Is the project worth my time? How do I feel about it once it’s done?!” To be honest, every time I prioritize the financial benefits, I have regretted it afterward!
What advice would you give to someone starting out as a designer?
Always be eager to choose challenging ways and learn new things, try to never give up but if you feel like you get tired a lot along the way, maybe you have to change the path you’re on! This is not the most fitting place for you then.
What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you?
These days I’m working on completing my MFA thesis at UC Davis and within a few months, I’ll be starting my job as an assistant professor of design at the University of Texas.